Ramsay Hunt syndrome

Ramsay Hunt syndrome

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The nerve that controls your facial muscles passes through a narrow corridor of bone on its way to your face.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome (herpes zoster oticus) occurs when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. In addition to the painful shingles rash, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox clears, the virus lies dormant in your nerves. Years later, it may reactivate. If the virus reactivates and affects your facial nerve, the result is Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

Prompt treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome can reduce your risk of complications, which can include permanent facial muscle weakness and deafness.

Facial weakness or paralysis may cause one corner of your mouth to droop. If you’re experiencing facial weakness or paralysis, you may have trouble closing the eye on the affected side of your face.

The two main signs of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are:

Usually, the rash and the facial paralysis develop at the same time. But in some cases, the rash will occur before the facial paralysis or the paralysis before the rash. Sometimes the rash never materializes.

If you have Ramsay Hunt syndrome, you might also experience:

Call your doctor if you experience facial paralysis or a shingles rash on your face. Treatment beginning within three days of the start of signs and symptoms may help prevent long-term complications.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome occurs in people who’ve had chickenpox. Once you recover from chickenpox, that virus can lie dormant in your body for years — sometimes reactivating in later years to cause shingles, a painful rash with fluid-filled blisters.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a shingles outbreak that affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. It typically also causes varying degrees of one-sided facial paralysis and hearing loss.

Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop Ramsay Hunt syndrome. But it’s more common in older adults, typically affecting people older than 60. Ramsay Hunt syndrome is rare in children.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome isn’t contagious. However, reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus can cause chickenpox in people you come in contact with if they haven’t previously had chickenpox or been vaccinated for chickenpox. The infection can be serious for people with immune system deficiencies.

Until the rash blisters scab over, avoid physical contact with:

Complications of Ramsay Hunt syndrome may include:

Children are now routinely vaccinated against chickenpox, which greatly reduces the chances of them becoming infected with the naturally occurring chickenpox virus. A shingles vaccine for people age 60 or older also is recommended.

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Ramsay Hunt syndrome

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